Accounting is the process of recording, classifying, and summarizing financial transactions to provide information for decision-making. It is an essential part of any business, as it allows for the tracking of financial performance, compliance with regulations, and the creation of financial statements.
A major in accounting can provide students with a strong foundation in accounting principles, financial analysis, and business operations. This degree program is typically offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, with different requirements and opportunities for specialization.
Undergraduate Accounting Program
An undergraduate accounting program typically consists of a four-year course of study, with a minimum of 120 credit hours required for completion. The curriculum generally includes courses in financial accounting, managerial accounting, taxation, auditing, and business law.
In addition to these core courses, many programs offer electives in areas such as international accounting, forensic accounting, and accounting information systems. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in internships or co-op programs to gain practical experience in the field.
Graduate Accounting Program
A graduate accounting program is typically designed for students who have completed an undergraduate degree in accounting or a related field. These programs can range from one to two years in duration and may lead to a master’s degree in accounting, taxation, or business administration.
Graduate accounting programs often focus on advanced accounting topics such as financial statement analysis, advanced auditing, and tax research. They may also offer courses in leadership and management, as well as opportunities for specialization in areas such as forensic accounting or international taxation.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam
One of the most common career paths for accounting majors is to become a certified public accountant (CPA). In the United States, the CPA credential is regulated by state boards of accountancy and requires passing a rigorous exam.
The CPA exam consists of four sections: auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation. Candidates must also meet educational and experience requirements, which vary by state.
Career Opportunities for Accounting Majors
Accounting majors have a wide range of career opportunities available to them, both in public accounting and in industry. Some of the most common career paths include:
Public Accounting: Many accounting majors begin their careers in public accounting firms, where they work with clients to provide accounting, tax, and consulting services. Public accounting firms range from small local practices to large multinational firms, such as the “Big Four” accounting firms (Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC).
Corporate Accounting: Many companies have their own accounting departments, where accounting majors can work as staff accountants, financial analysts, or controllers. Corporate accounting positions may be available in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and financial services.
Government Accounting: Local, state, and federal government agencies also employ accounting professionals to manage their financial operations. These positions may include roles in auditing, budgeting, and financial reporting.
Nonprofit Accounting: Nonprofit organizations, such as charities and foundations, also require accounting professionals to manage their financial operations and comply with regulations.
Salary and Job Outlook for Accounting Majors
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $73,560 in May 2020. The highest 10 percent earned more than $128,680, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,480.
The BLS also projects that employment of accountants and auditors will grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is expected to be driven by changes in financial regulations, globalization, and the need for businesses to comply with tax laws.
A major in accounting can provide students with a strong foundation in accounting principles and prepare them for a wide range of career opportunities in public accounting, corporate accounting, government accounting, and nonprofit accounting. Graduates of accounting programs may also choose to pursue advanced degrees or professional certifications, such as the CPA credential. With the demand for accounting professionals expected to grow in the coming years, a degree in accounting can be a smart investment for students looking to enter the field of business and finance.